Honour­ing re­sis­tance in Pales­tine

Is­raeli Apartheid Week event brings to­gether schol­ars of Pales­tinian her­itage

The McGill Daily - - News - Alice Rougeaux —Nahla Abdo Pro­fes­sor at Car­leton Uni­ver­sity

On Thurs­day March 9, around thirty stu­dents and com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered in the Henry F. Hall build­ing at Con­cor­dia for an event ti­tled “The eth­nic cleans­ing of Pales­tine: A never end­ing Re­sis­tance.” The panel dis­cus­sion, fea­tur­ing schol­ars Nahla Abdo, Nuha Dwaikat Shaer, and Rula Abisaab, was or­gan­ised by Sol­i­dar­ity for Pales­tinian Hu­man Rights (SPHR) Con­cor­dia as part of Mon­treal’s Is­raeli Apartheid Week. The talk had barely be­gun when it was dis­rupted by two heck­lers bran­dish­ing Is­raeli flags.

Is­raeli Apartheid Week ( IAW) takes place each year in over 225 cities across the world. Mon­treal’s ver­sion of IAW, held from March 6 to 15 on var­i­ous uni­ver­sity cam­puses, de­scribes it­self on Face­book as “Ten days of pan­els, work­shops, film screen­ings, demon­stra­tions and cul­tural events […] in op­po­si­tion to apartheid and oc­cu­pa­tion / In sol­i­dar­ity with Pales­tinian re­sis­tance / In sup­port of so­cial jus­tice strug­gles ev­ery­where.”

The evening be­gan with a land ac­knowl­edge­ment by SPHR Con­cor­dia’s fa­cil­i­ta­tor be­fore the first pan­elist was in­ter­rupted just a few min­utes into her pre­sen­ta­tion. Two in­di­vid­u­als strode into the vicin­ity chant­ing about Is­rael and draped in Is­raeli flags. They pro­ceeded to stand in front of the au­di­ence, block­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion screen from view as they yelled “there’s no Pales­tine.”

Their ar­rival sparked shouts in the au­di­ence, while Rula Abisaab read one of the po­ems she was pre­sent­ing to drown out the dis­rup­tion. The event’s or­ga­niz­ers even­tu­ally suc­ceeded in shift­ing the in­di­vid­u­als to one side. Se­cu­rity staff ar­rived and si­lently es­corted the heck­lers away from the area.

Nahla Abdo is a Pro­fes­sor at Car­leton Uni­ver­sity, where she con­ducts re­search per­tain­ing to the ex­pe­ri­ences of Pales­tinian women. Her lec­ture, once re­sumed, fo­cused on the ter­mi­nol­ogy and the­o­ret­i­cal frame­works gen­er­ally used to talk about the Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion. Abdo ar­gued that ar­tic­u­la­tions of this oc­cu­pa­tion as “racism” and “Is­lam­o­pho­bia” are in­suf­fi­cient.

“We need a the­ory of the set­tler colo­nial state and Indi­gene­ity,” she said. “It is not racism hap­pen­ing there, it is some­thing else.” Abdo em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of nam­ing set­tler colo­nial­ism and geno­cide specif­i­cally, com­par­ing the strug­gle of Pales­tini­ans to other In­dige­nous strug­gles around the globe. She went on to speak about the use­ful­ness and lim­i­ta­tions of the term “apartheid,” and re­viewed re­cent lit­er­a­ture on the subject. Her lec­ture ended with a call to study Pales­tinian his­tory, cit­ing, for ex­am­ple, the pro­cesses be­hind the 1948 Pales­tinian ex­o­dus, or Nakba, to bet­ter un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion in Pales­tine.

Nuha Shaer, a PHD can­di­date in the School of So­cial Work at Mcgill, ad­dressed the dis­rup­tion that took place at the start of the event.

“What jumped into my mind [was] images of Is­raeli sol­diers in­vad- ing my home many times, ar­rest­ing my fam­ily mem­bers, hu­mil­i­at­ing us. So, for me, as a Pales­tinian who came from Nablus in the West Bank, […] I feel it’s hard for me to ex­pe­ri­ence that there and come here in Canada […], where we’re sup­posed to be safe, and see the same images.”

Shaer then de­scribed her work as “con­cepts put into prac­tice,” be­fore out­lin­ing her re­search on the re­al­i­ties of Is­raeli pol­icy im­ple­men­ta­tion in the West Bank, specif­i­cally “Area C.” Area C refers to one of the three ad­min­is­tra­tive ar­eas into which the West Bank was di­vided by the Oslo Ac­cords in the 1990s; Is­rael still up­holds these di­vi­sions.

Much of her pre­sen­ta­tion re­vealed what one of her slides called “a quiet eth­nic cleans­ing,” in ref­er­ence to Is­rael “al­ways at­tempt­ing to ap­pear […] le­gal.” Ac­cord­ing to Shaer, the tech­niques be­hind this in­clude build­ing seg­re­gated roads, es­tab­lish­ing nat­u­ral re­serves that are later given to set­tlers, sur­veil­lance and de­mo­li­tion, as well as pro­hi­bi­tions and re­stric­tions on build­ing and ac­cess to wa­ter and elec­tric­ity.

Shaer con­cluded with a list of re­sis­tance tac­tics, and strate­gies for sol­i­dar­ity with those liv­ing in Area C of the West Bank, where Is­rael con­sid­ers it il­le­gal for Pales­tini­ans to build homes.

Rula Abisaab, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of His­tory and Is­lamic Stud­ies at Mcgill, tran­si­tioned into dis- cussing po­etry and lit­er­a­ture. She ex­plained that lit­er­a­ture is the best medium for stu­dents to grasp tragedies like the Nakba. Be­gin­ning with a po­etic in­tro­duc­tion ded­i­cated to “car­ry­ing the lives and mem­o­ries of Pales­tini­ans to us and to the world”, Abisaab then read from works by var­i­ous po­ets and short story writ­ers. Each read­ing was in­tro­duced with a brief bi­og­ra­phy of its au­thor, em­pha­siz­ing Abisaab’s wish to “open a space for the voices of Pales­tinian writ­ers, women and men, […] who lived through ex­pe­ri­ences of in­car­cer­a­tion, dis­place­ment, ex­pul­sion, [and] tor­ture.”

De­spite a de­lay caused by the ini­tial dis­tur­bance, a sig­nif­i­cant part of the au­di­ence was still present when the panel opened it­self to a brief con­ver­sa­tion with the au­di­ence. Be­fore this could be­gin how­ever, the fa­cil­i­ta­tor made a pub­lic re­quest for any­one with footage of the heck­lers to come for­ward, cit­ing “se­cu­rity rea­sons.”

The pan­elists then heard com­ments and ques­tions rang­ing from gen­eral con­cerns over ac­cess to nat­u­ral re­sources and sus­tain­abil­ity, to the de­mo­li­tion of the homes of Pales­tinian de­tainees in their ab­sence and Is­rael’s map­ping prac­tices. Abisaab’s an­swer to the lat­ter was to ask that peo­ple to “refuse to call these ar­eas [in the West Bank] by let­ters and num­bers”, while Nuha Shaer said, with a smile, “We don’t ex­ist… but we ex­ist!”

“We need a the­ory of the set­tler colo­nial state and Indi­gene­ity... It is not racism hap­pen­ing there, it is some­thing else.”

A sign at the panel. Alice Rougeaux | The Mcgill Daily

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